DAVIS, Calif. – In a hot-hitting series opener, the University of Hawai‘i baseball team (17-10, 3-1 BWC) kicked off its second Big West series on a victory on Thursday at the Dobbins Baseball Complex, defending a first-inning lead to the 5-3 final at UC Davis (8-16, 1-3 BWC).
Third baseman Kekai Rios proved to be the spark for the Rainbow Warriors, registering a career-best 4-for-5 afternoon against the Aggies. Following Rios’ lead, the Rainbow Warriors made enough offensive headway with a season-high 15 hits, while the pitching staff blanked key frames down the stretch.
The Rainbow Warriors wasted no time capitalizing early on scoring opportunities, sending a walked Maaki Yamazaki to the plate in the first on a Rios RBI single fired up the middle. A second Hawai‘i run crossed home as Adam Fogel scored unearned on a UC Davis infield error.
The ‘Bows again took advantage of an Aggies error in the second, with Dylan Vchulek scoring from third on a first-pitch Yamazaki RBI single down the right field line. Vchulek got aboard with a single of his own, but added two bags on the Aggies miscue.
UC Davis countered in the home half to put some pressure on the visiting Rainbow Warriors, as a pair of doubles from Cameron Briggs and Garret Kelly trimmed the Hawai‘i lead. However, catcher Tyler Murray halted the game-tying score, applying the tag to complete the relay from left field.
Using double-play contact, the Rainbow Warriors were able to keep themselves at safe distance in the third, scoring Rios.
Again, the Aggies answered, as Briggs scored on a Ryan Hooper RBI groundout to slice the UH lead once more, but came up empty with bases loaded as the ‘Bows gloved the clutch defensive play to end the fourth with a 4-3 advantage.
Held off the scoreboard for four innings in a one-run game, the ‘Bows came to life again in the eighth with a four-hit frame, capped off by Vchulek scoring the insurance run on a Johnny Weeks RBI single to left field.
The two-run edge proved to be enough for Hawai‘i, as starter Jackson Rees (3-0) locked up the Aggies for the final three of his seven-inning victory before handing off to Dylan Thomas, who secured the 5-3 final with his eighth save of the year – moving into a tie for fifth in the UH career list with 17 total saves.
In addition to Rios, seven Rainbow Warriors collected hits; five with a pair. Yamazaki and Weeks both batted 2-for-4 with an RBI.
With the weather already bumping up the start of the series by one day, Mother Nature will make the final call on when the Rainbow Warriors and Aggies continue the series. At the conclusion of the opener, game two is scheduled for Friday at 11:30 a.m. HT (2:30 p.m. PT). However, heavy rains are projected to push through the area and may force the second game to Saturday, as originally scheduled. The status of Friday’s game will be determined on Friday morning.
Hawai’i is now alone in first place in the BIg West Conference at 3-1.